What’s playin’ at Penn State? As the song goes, I’ll tell you what’s playin’ at Penn State. A story ‘bout guys fallin’ in love with dolls…you get the gist. Penn State musical theatre is presenting the classic GUYS AND DOLLS at the Playhouse Theatre for their fall show. It boasts a large cast filled with sound actors, dancers and familiar songs.
Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson are gamblers who thrive on betting on the game of craps. Lead hot box dancer, Adelaide, is sick of waiting around for fourteen years to marry her fiance Nathan. He is more wrapped up in his business then her; so much so that he bets Sky he can’t take a certain girl, a missionary doll, Sarah Brown, to Havana. This musical fable takes place in New York City with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.
Kevin Clay who played Nathan and Rachel Fairbanks who played Miss Adelaide were an unstoppable duo. Kevin’s ease in the role and hint of an accent were welcomed, not overbearing. Rachel’s strong suits were her dancing and charming facial expressions which matched her lines. She played the witless girl to a tee and strutted around the stage in a myriad of costumes which fit her like a glove. When Stephanie Cowan who played Sarah sang “I’ll Know” it was as if the song was created specifically for her voice. The role of Sarah is written quite boring and Stephanie played her uptight and at times, rude, toward Sky who was attempting to woo her. It’s common to play her as stand-offish, however, she seemed mad which was an interesting character choice. Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton who played Sky had a rich, deep voice and staunch air about him which was perfect for the role. The ultimate show stopper though was Sam Seferian as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Whenever he hit the stage, he was nibbling on food and made the audience laugh with his funny demeanor. The well known song “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” was his shining glory. It was so well polished with dancing, acting and impeccable notes, the audience clapped for minutes before the show was able to move forward.
Some of the directing choices seemed odd to me. The stage was huge and didn’t seem to be utilized to it’s fullest potential. The opening scene employed the ensemble but other songs where I would have imagined more characters on stage, were lacking. When you have a large area to work with, only placing a few characters on stage at a time gives it an empty feel. The costume design by Lindsey Eastman was superb. The men had suits tailored to them, with hats and shoes to match the time period. The women’s dresses and hot box dancers clothes were lovely. Choreographer, Michael Lichtefeld, did a nice job highlighting the dancers. The boys dancing in the crapshooters’ ballet was captivating and who could forget the ladies stripping down to their bodices in “Take Back Your Mink”?
All in all the show was a wonderful success adored by many. The musical is only running through November 20th so hurry and get your tickets before it’s too late. To learn more about this show check out: http://theatre.psu.edu/
Rating: To Be